By Tom Hocking
Non-discipleship is the unmentionable elephant standing in the foyer of the Evangelical Church. Perhaps the most compelling evidence that genuine disciples are not being made is the fact that followers of Jesus, though apparently numbering in the millions as a collective group, seem to have little redemptive impact on our culture.
I’m convinced one of the reasons for our negligible influence is that we spend a very small percentage of our time in the community of God’s presence. Most pastors are delighted if a follower of Jesus shows up for two or three hours on Sunday morning and spends another couple hours in a small group during the week. If that same member serves in the church or in a ministry to the community for an additional hour or two, we would call that person a pillar of the church.
All of us have approximately 112 waking hours each week (based on eight hours of sleep a night). So if a follower of Christ spends eight hours in fellowship, worship, or service with other Christians from his or her local church, what is he or she doing with the remaining 104 hours? Couldn’t some of those hours be “redeemed” (Col. 4:5)? What would happen if we began to connect redemptively with other followers of Christ-even if they attend another church-in the routine non-religious spaces of our lives?
In the last issue of the FGBC World, I introduced the concept of a Spring of Life to provide just such a connection. In a Spring of Life, believers intentionally connect with each other for the sake of the gospel in places they frequent-neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, coffee shops, or clubs, for example -so that they might become transformational disciples and make transformational disciples. A transformational disciple is a follower of Jesus who is actively arranging his or her life in order to reflect the character and conduct of Christ. Such a disciple will be transformational in his or her relational and physical contexts.
A Spring of Life, therefore, can be viewed as a small disciple-making community located outside of the local church congregation involving a place, a partner, and a plan. In order to begin such a community, first need to choose a place-a space in your normal life routine that you might adopt as your personal mission field.
Not far from our home is a coffee shop that my wife and I have turned into our personal Spring of Life. We frequently go there to intentionally connect as a couple with non-Christian baristas and customers.
Obviously the task of picking a partner for our Spring of Life wasn’t difficult. But what if you don’t know any Christians at the place where you want to start a Spring of Life? Begin to pray that God would direct you to someone who is-or might soon become-a follower of Christ and your redemptive partner. Jesus sent His disciples out in teams for a reason.
Finally, listen carefully to the Spirit in prayer as you and your partner craft a plan to live out the gospel in tangible peace-building ways in your Spring of Life. Brothers and sisters, we live in a world that is thirsty for hope and peace! May God give us the grace to transform the ordinary places of life into “a place of refreshing springs” (Ps. 84:6b) so that dehydrated people can drink deeply and “never thirst again” (Jn. 4:14).
(Editor’s Note: The 2009-2011 moderator of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, Tom Hocking is challenging Grace Brethren churches in the U.S. to unite in a commitment to make disciples through planting churches, training leaders, and adopting holistic ministries. He is the pastor of the Bellflower Brethren Church in Bellflower, Calif.)